Dr. Arace is a graduate of Fairleigh Dickenson University’s College of Dental Medicine who has established a dental practice in West Orange, New Jersey, who specializes in general and cosmetic dentistry.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day have been our Italian American family’s most cherished holidays, especially Christmas Eve! Our Christmas Eve traditions have been passed along through the generations. From my grandparents on down to my parents, my sisters and I continue with our beloved Christmas holiday celebrations. It should come as no surprise to the readers of the paper that although the event begins with Christmas Eve, the preparation begins weeks before. There are the recipes to gather and the selection of which fish dishes will be prepared. Although the Seven Fishes Dinner almost always includes clams, shrimp, calamari, baccala, smelts, scallops and scungilli, each fish has been prepared different ways and everyone has their favorites. In addition to the selection of recipes, there is the shopping and in our family it was never a one stop trip – even when it came to the bakery, there is one for the bread, another for the pastries and still another for the Italian rum cake.
I have such fond memories of my grandmothers and their incredible baking skills, without a measuring cup in sight, each could prepare their cookies year after year with the same delicious results – there were ‘S’ cookies, jelly ones too, struffoli and zeppoles. The sight of the Christmas treats on the sideboard was such a temptation when we were young, but before there could be any thought of the sweets, there was the entire family for the Seven Fishes Dinner, followed by Christmas Eve Mass. Then when we returned home we could all indulge in the decadent desserts!
The greatest blessing of this holiday is the joy of sharing it with family and friends. Telling stories and reminiscing about when my sisters and I were little always brings out the tears of laughter.
To this day, we continue these traditions and pass them on to the younger members of our family. My sister Toni continues the baking tradition and my youngest sister Nicole and myself prepare the fish. It is all about family, tradition and the birth of Our Savior.